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Big Brother
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Welcome To The Goldfish Bowl Everybody

By James Donahue

If you feel betrayed because officials of your government have been caught spying on everything we write, say or do, then consider this. While the spying has taken on new and more sophisticated technologies since 9-11 and the Bush Administration pushed through the Patriot Act, it has been going on for longer than you might care to know.

Perhaps we have forgotten about the concerns we had about a decade ago about the sophisticated new listening devices, drug and alcohol testing equipment carried around in police cars, and laboratories with DNA testing capabilities that have become a part of police research.

What we are seeing may be only the beginning. We appear to be moving into a new era of snooping that already makes Dick Tracy's wrist radio technology look like it came right out of the 19th Century.

The technology has been advancing so quickly few of us had time to question how it was going to affect such basic civil rights issues as our right to privacy.

For example, there was some controversy not long ago over a new police operated gadget that can detect heat coming through walls and ceilings of buildings, giving police an indication that marijuana might be growing under artificial light. But if you think that little sensor was troublesome, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Engineers at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta have developed the Radar Flashlight, a small type of radar device that can see through concrete walls and doors and detect the presence of living beings. Police see these devices as a great way to determine how many people are present inside a building before they conduct a raid, and just where everyone is located.

Another form of this same tool has been examining us closer than we like when we are walking through radar sensors before boarding aircraft in the local airports. It was developed by engineers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colo. The device uses electromagnetic waves to peer through clothing and detect concealed weapons from up to 50 feet away.

Police foresee mounting snooping devices like this on their vehicles as they drive through unruly crowds. They can be used to spot people carrying guns, knives and possibly even plastic explosives.

Of course, the new devices have been challenged in the courts by the American Civil Liberties Union. "This is yet another example of the way in which technology gives law enforcement super human powers," said ACLU associate director Barry Steinhardt. "That requires us to reexamine under what standards law enforcement can search us. We think uses of this kind should be based on a warrant and probable cause that someone committed a crime."

Steinhardt said the new hand-held radars are just one in a host of technologies already being used by law enforcement. These range from thermal imaging to video cameras and low dose X-rays.

"It all amounts to a high-tech strip search," he said.

While all of this is going on with your neighborhood police, take a moment to look up in the sky. There the Federal Bureau of Investigation and European Union have developed a global surveillance system capable of scanning the millions of messages passing through the communications satellites and tap into dissident comments and subversive thoughts.

Called "ECHELON," this high-speed computer system intercepts telex, e-mail, fax and international telephone communications. It sifts through and extracts messages with certain key words or phrases. When they appear, the message is tagged and someone in a high government office takes a close look at just who made this statement.

The warning from this piece of information: be careful what you say over the telephone, in a fax or in your e-mail. Even if you say it jokingly, a threat could get you in very big trouble. Big brother is definitely listening.

And if all this isn't bad enough, a Turkish inventor has just marketed a lie-detecting telephone that sells for $159. "This is a phone that enables you to tell if someone is telling the truth or not on the other end of the line," said Tulay Ispirli, who sells the device in his shop in Ismir. He says the phone as an electronic device that notes changes in frequency that the human ear cannot discern.

The moral to all of this is that it is time for truth and honesty. People need to unlock their closets, let out all of the skeletons, and clean up their lives. There are no longer any secrets.